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Suspect's sister apologizes for attack on Malala

From Aamir Iqbal for CNN
updated 8:32 PM EST, Mon November 5, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "He has brought shame on our family," says suspect's sister
  • "I don't consider Atta Ullah my brother any more," she adds
  • The 23-year-old student is being sought in connection with the attack on Malala

Swat Valley, Pakistan (CNN) -- The sister of a man suspected in the shooting of Pakistani teenager Malala Yousufzai has apologized to the victim.

"Please convey a message to Malala, that I apologize for what my brother did to her," Rehana Haleem told CNN on Sunday in an exclusive interview here about her brother, Attah Ullah Khan, 23. "He has brought shame on our family. We have lost everything after what he did."

Police have said they were searching for Khan and two boys, whom authorities have not identified.

Since age 11, Malala had been encouraging her fellow Pakistanis to stand up to the Taliban, who were trying to push girls from classrooms.

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On October 9, Malala -- who is now 15 -- was on her school van in the Taliban-held Swat Valley when thugs stopped the vehicle and jumped on board. They demanded that other girls riding identify Malala. They shot two girls, who suffered non-life-threatening injuries, and fired at Malala, striking her in the head and neck, according to officials.

"What he did was intolerable," Haleem said. "Malala is just like my sister. I'd like to express my concern for Malala on behalf of my whole family; I hope she recovers soon and returns to a happy and normal life as soon as possible. I hope Malala doesn't consider me or my family as enemies. I don't consider Atta Ullah my brother anymore."

A day after the attack, security forces searched the family's house, seizing documents and pictures, and taking Haleem and her family to a nearby house equipped with bars on the doors and windows, she said.

The officers asked where Atta Ullah was and whether his sister knew how to reach him by cell phone, but she said she told them she did not.

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"I was pregnant and sick," she said. "Then, finally, after a day or two, they released me and my husband and told me they were letting me go only because I was sick."

Haleem spoke to CNN from her home in Warhi Mast Malik Abad, a village on the outskirts of the city of Mingora, where the attack tookplace.

After the couple were released, they returned to the house, where she gave birth to a daughter, she said.

Five days later, the army again raided the house, this time taking away only her husband.

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Haleem said her husband, her aged mother, her uncle and another brother remain in custody.

Haleem said she had little doubt that her brother was involved in the shooting.

"If he was innocent, he would have come back and claimed he was innocent and come to the aid of his mother and our family," she said. "His behavior is that of a guilty man. How could he abandon us?"

Read more: Malala is face of global attacks on schools

Her culture considers raising a hand against a woman to be dishonorable, she said, adding, "Let alone a man who tries to kill a woman."

Police said last month that they had arrested six men in connection with the shooting but were still searching for Khan, whom they said was pursuing his master's degree in chemistry.

Malala is recovering in a hospital in Birmingham, England. "She is lucky to be alive," Dr. Dave Rosser, the medical director of University Hospitals Birmingham, told reporters late last month.

Read more: Pakistan to honor girls injured in Malala attack

But she does not appear to have suffered significant brain damage and "she shouldn't need to be in hospital for more than a few weeks, maybe a couple of months at the most," he said.

When Malala was 11, she worked with the BBC and published a blog in 2009 detailing her struggles to attend school in Swat.

In January of that year, the Taliban issued an edict ordering that no school should educate girls.

After the shooting, the Taliban issued a statement online saying that, if Malala were to survive, they would attack her again.

If Malala returns to Pakistan, guards will protect her and her family, Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik, has said.

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